Who remembers Blockbuster? | Tacoma Daily Index


By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

It seems like ages ago, and in many ways it was.

Not too long ago, Blockbuster was a $3 billion company that operated over 9,000 video rental stores in the United States and employed over 84,000 people worldwide. And had 65 million registered customers.

Blockbuster was the way many moviegoers saw themselves, in a small but immediate way, as part of the film industry.

And, in a stunning – but profitable (at least in the short term) move to alienate its own once loyal customer base, Blockbuster earned $800,000 in late fees (!) in one year. But in 2010, after refusing to buy Netflix, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy – with more than $900 million in debt, and all but disappeared from the American cultural landscape.

The first Blockbuster opened in Dallas in 1985. By 1988, Blockbuster had over 400 stores nationwide. The theme and business model were so compelling that there were even plans (approved by the Florida Legislature) to build a Blockbuster amusement park in Miami.


As always, the emergence of competition has reshaped the market landscape and once again changed the rules. Netflix essentially offered the same movie services (with DVDs) by mail. Gone are the evenings browsing movie titles in the brightly lit store, and the half-scholarly movie nerds behind the counter – and, of course, those dreaded late fees.

To compete with Netflix, Blockbuster partnered with Enron (yes, THAT Enron).

To put it simply, making the transition from VHS to DVD to using courier delivery and finally streaming was not easy for Blockbuster – in fact, it was impossible.

In fact, it wasn’t impossible – they just didn’t do it.

Add to that hedge fund investors who manipulated and shorted stocks, customers lost forever to late fees, and the company’s lack of vision to cater to a changing customer base, the end was inevitable.

And not just for Blockbuster

For various reasons, physical media have lost their appeal. Why buy, own and keep track of a video you’re likely to watch once, if so, when you could stream it and have it in your queue (or not) and the review (or not)?

Not only is Blockbuster gone, but with them are the rows of videos on our shelves.

Many traditional and mid-century modern homes were built with built-in shelving. Homes (and apartments) in the 1990s had portable shelves of VHS tapes, and possibly DVDs that showed our interests and tastes in popular entertainment.

All of that has been replaced by bingeing and posting what we watch on social media.

These carefully curated videos, which have often been the soundtrack or visual backdrop to relationships and life stages, have become the wreckage of life that accumulates in garage sales or thrift stores.

But for a time, our tastes in movies defined us – and our evening entertainment.

Who needed a pandemic when we had all become channel surfers at home browsing our multiple streaming services?

It was then

There was something simplistic, maybe even archaic, about rummaging through those shelves of movies you’d never see and asking a complete stranger for entertainment advice. At least there was one human being there who added to our conversations about what to pick for that night’s movie, or as an excuse to talk about favorite movies, stars, or even movie genres.

For the most part we used words like “movies” and the more sophisticated aficionados used “movies” – hardly anyone in the movie rental days used the word “video” and before about 1995 no America in red blood never used the word “queue”. in public.

Yes, Blockbuster has left its mark. But perhaps the most important lesson we could learn is that he is gone.

How a multi-billion dollar company, with market dominance and a customer base on the order of the French population, could emerge, dominate and then evaporate like a lost dream in just over 20 years ?

Who knows? But we will definitely see him again.

Maybe even on a faster scale.

Corporate seminars will study the life cycle of companies like Blockbuster and CEOs and managers can take notes and maybe learn a few lessons, but the bottom line is that a few missteps can pave the way to total dissolution and to the dismemberment even of the greatest. , the most revolutionary idea.

These giants who currently dominate our headlines and conversations won’t be around forever.

The FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) with a combined value of around $7 trillion certainly seem like they’re here forever, but as with Blockbuster, the tide can easily – and irreversibly – turn.


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